Jim Geraghty’s post–commenting on an attack on McCain based on his age, and suggesting that it won’t go over well with older voters–sent me to the 1996 exit polls on the Dole vs. Clinton race. On the question of whether Dole’s age would affect his ability to be president, 34 percent said yes and 64 percent said no. But the people who were concerned about Dole’s age broke much more heavily against him than the people who were unconcerned broke for him. The people who worried about Dole’s age went 79-12 for Clinton over Dole, while the unconcerned went 58-34 for Dole over Clinton.
Can we conclude that Dole would have won if he had been younger? I don’t think so. My guess is that to some extent a respondent’s voting intention determined his answer to this question rather than the reverse. These exit polls do not have a breakdown of the respondents, but I recall that in 1996 there were reports that older voters were more likely than younger ones to express concern about Dole’s age